JIS News

The Child Development Agency (CDA) plans to place at least 60 per cent of children, who are wards of the state, in family based-care by 2008. The plans are part of the agency’s thrust since its inception in 2003, to provide alternative care placements within a family setting for wards of the state, which numbers up to 2,500.
Currently, within the alternative care service of the CDA, there are two family based programmes – foster care and the reintegration with kin. In terms of the latter, after counselling and intervention on the part of the agency, the child may be re-integrated back into their original family.
Speaking at the weekly JIS Think Tank, Alison Anderson, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the CDA, said that in order to achieve this goal, the Agency had developed the Foster Care Improvement Plan.
Foster care involves the placement of a child within a family setting after careful consideration of the needs of the child and all the requisite checks and balances regarding the safety, security and well being of the child.
She described the plan as a “strategic blueprint” for improving both the services offered to foster caregivers as well as methods to increase recruitment.
“An important aspect of the plan is the quality of the service that the CDA delivers to its clients, whether to the children or the families that open their homes to these children,” she said. “The number of foster caregivers will increase once there is better provision of service to them,” the CEO noted.
Delving further into the plan, Ms. Anderson said it would be “kick-started” with the inaugural National Foster Care Recognition Week from February 12 – 19. Governor General, His Excellency, the Most Hon. Sir Howard Cooke, will proclaim the week of activities at King’s House tomorrow (February 9).
Ms. Anderson said that the aim of the week was three fold, in that it involved raising the profile of foster care in Jamaica; assisting with the recruitment and retention of more foster parents, especially those who are willing to take children with special needs (the physical and mentally disabled as well as those infected or affected by HIV/AIDS); and, most importantly, to publicly acknowledge the dedication and commitment of those people, who have been foster parents for more than two or three decades.
“Many of these people, have had multiple foster children, some two to four children, some of which are disabled and others infected with HIV/AIDS. It is important that we bring these champions to the fore, so that the nation can say thank you,” she informed.
Apart from the special week, the CEO said that the plan also involved “quite a lot of capacity building”, which meant extensive training of prospective foster care parents because many of the wards of the state had special needs.
“We also have to work through with the foster care parents, the fact that some of the children may not have family or parents, who are either alive or interested, or capable of taking care of them. We also have to deal with matters where some children do have parents and in that case, carry the foster care parents through a process of how to deal with the natural family,” she explained.
Foster care, she expounded, was not about separating children from natural family. It was, in fact, about helping the child over a period in which they could not be with their natural family.
“We do not forget about natural family when we engage in foster care. A major element of any foster care programme is that all those who are interested in the welfare of the child are brought together in concert, to help improve the life of the child,” Ms. Anderson stressed.
The CDA is responsible for the provision of care and protection to children who have been abused, neglected, exploited or who are at risk of being abused.
Presently there are approximately 1,500 children in the care of some 400 foster families.